More than 40 years of determined endeavour by several generations of dedicated volunteers has been officially recognised with the Duke of Gloucester presenting the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award for Voluntary Service to the Swanage Railway.
A first cousin to Her Majesty the Queen – and with an interest in heritage railways and steam locomotives – Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, visited the award-winning heritage line on Friday, 8 June, 2018, accompanied by the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, Angus Campbell, who is the Queen’s representative in the county.
The prestigious Queen's Award for Voluntary Service is regarded as the MBE, the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, for voluntary groups.
During his visit, the Duke of Gloucester also unveiled a plaque in the booking hall of Swanage station marking the Peter Manisty Award from the national Heritage Railway Association which was given to the Swanage Railway in March of this year.
The national excellence accolade recognised the Swanage Railway’s achievement in re-instating the line to Wareham and returning trains from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the main line at Wareham during a 60 selected day trial in the summer of 2017.
Arriving at Swanage station, His Royal Highness was welcomed by Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns and Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons as well as the town mayors of Swanage and Wareham and the chairman of Purbeck District Council who is also the chairman of the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership.
Moving into the station booking hall, Prince Richard – whose grand-parents were King George V and Queen Mary – was introduced to Swanage Railway Trust trustees, directors of the Swanage Railway Company, officers of the national Heritage Railway Association as well as volunteers and staff on the award-winning preserved line.
The Duke of Gloucester and the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset then boarded the ‘Wessex Belle’ dining train – along with more than 70 other special guests, Swanage Railway volunteers and staff – for a trip to Corfe Castle where five Swanage Railway volunteers were presented with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service crystal trophy.
With a royal train headcode of four white discs on the front, the train was hauled by late 1920s Southern Railway ‘U’ class steam locomotive No. 31806 which used to haul Basingstoke to Corfe Castle and Swanage day tripper trains during the 1950s.
The crew of the steam locomotive was father and son Swanage Railway volunteers Peter and Steven Duncalfe. A driver since the mid-1980s, Peter joined the Railway in 1978 at the age of 16 while his 19-year old son Steven is a recently qualified fireman.
The Duke of Gloucester and Angus Campbell visited the goods shed museum at Corfe Castle station – where more than 70 guests had assembled – for the presentation of a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service crystal trophy to five Swanage Railway volunteers.
Prince Richard praised the Swanage Railway’s achievements – against the odds over 40 years – and acknowledged the role several generations of volunteers played in re-building the line and re-establishing the rail connection with Wareham.
He said: “It’s a great pleasure for me to be here today and have the very pleasant task of presenting the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service which has been created to acknowledge the important role that volunteers play in our national life.
“There is a huge satisfaction both in hearing the wonderful sound of a steam engine but also in providing a public service that is extremely useful to the community.
“In congratulating you, I hope that you feel a shared sense of pride in that what you could never have done by yourself you have achieved by working together as a group of volunteers. I wish the very best of luck to the Swanage Railway,” added the Duke.
After the presentation, His Royal Highness cut a special cake marking the occasion before viewing a display about volunteering on the Swanage Railway and chatting to volunteers and staff on the heritage line which has been rebuilt from nothing since 1976.
Latest from Unseen Steam
- Daventry fundraiser hopes to restore 0-6-0 locomotive 'Cherwell'
- Manufacturers to visit new-build Gresley class P2 project
- Royal visitor to present Swanage Railway with award
- Heavy motion forgings ordered for P2 Prince of Wales project